Pause

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I spend a lot of time in “pause”.

Stuff happens. And at times, it feels like it needs an immediate reaction. More often than not, it doesn’t. Not only does it not need an immediate reaction, sometimes, most of the time a pause allows a reaction to turn into something more positive and more powerful: A response.

I can’t tell you how often things come up and the temptation is to launch into a retort, a judgment, an immediate kickback. We live in a world of instant. Social media is instant. We can order things in an instant. News seems to be in a constant spiral of instant. We careen from what seems to be crisis to crisis. Anxiety runs rampant. Sometimes the flow of news and information and need for an instant response feels like a storm tide: Irresistible.

No wonder the use of antacids has grown at an average of more than 6% a year for decades. The need to react, to deal, to handle this constant need to react and get it right is a recipe for stress. We weren’t wired for it.

Here’s what I have learned. Instant-acting is almost always a recipe for getting it wrong.

I never, ever get the full story on anything the first time or two I am confronted with an issue. It does not matter whether I am dealing with coaching clients, things in the news cycle, my pastorate, or corporate situations, if I were to react to my first impression, to the first version of the stories I hear, the first rush of news and crisis, I would almost always get the reaction wrong, because over the next few days or appointments, or discussions, the whole story slowly emerges.

And that whole story is always more multilayered, more nuanced, more complicated than if first seems. It is to the point that when people ask me what I think about anything: News, local gossip, the latest personal crisis, the personal or business situation that suddenly is a crisis, my response is generally “I don’t know enough.”

“Think slow. Act fast.” has become my motto.

I use the same way of dealing with things in my planning, whether I am helping a client start a new business, plan a new marketing campaign, or deal with a pesky problem.  Think. Listen. Probe. Listen some more. Get as many viewpoints as possible. Ponder. Wait.

It can be frustrating. We humans have the whole fight or flight thing ingrained in our DNA. It is the natural reaction and going slow. Taking time. Waiting – that’s hard. It’s frustrating. We want action and we want it now.

The problem is, doing it NOW, without a pause, without time to get it right, often means we don’t get it right. We substitute action for the chance to find the best action. Sometimes, in our need to spout and do immediately, we actually make it worse.

At least that’s this old man’s experience.

Here’s what I have learned, and it does not matter if it is a corporate restructuring, a new business or division, or a personal growth plan or crisis: If I react, move to action and judgement immediately, or if I think slow and act fast, it ends up taking about the same amount of time to accomplish whatever it is I am trying to accomplish.

The reason is this. Acting immediately feels like action and movement and in the moment is satisfying. But inevitably, because it has not been thought out, because we don’t have enough information, because we don’t fully see the layers and potential ripples, we end up having to redo. We end up fixing the new problems our instant fix has created. It’s terribly frustrating and often costs us money and time and a huge amount of frustrations. A pretty high percentage of the time, in the long run, it causes flat out failure.

But if we plan, think, learn, take our time to learn before we do, it takes the same amount of time as the “instant action” does overall, but it is a more direct, less error-prone, less costly, less harming, less frustrating path. When the problem/issue/goal is reached, everyone feels better about it. It builds relationship rather than harms relationship.

But waiting does not come easy. It does not feel like progress. It’s is not natural to most of us. Particularly in this instant world we live in.

We see it in politics, business and personal relationships. Instant is rarely the most effective way, long term.

Slow down. Pause. Take a deep breath. Count to ten. Wait a bit. Think more. Let the feeling that makes you want to scream wash over you. Resist the need to spout.  You’ll be better for it. You will accomplish what you want to accomplish and do it better. You will build better relationships in business and life.

And you and the people around you will need less antacids.

Be well. Travel wisely,

Tom

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